Getting a good look at something is an art all to itself. This past Thursday, I had the opportunity to take my grandsons to the Sunset Zoo in Manhattan, KS. We were all very excited for the adventure. The little guys were excited because it was the first time since March that they had been on an outing due to the COVID-19 situation, and I was excited to see them experience the animals. We have been talking about the animals in Nana’s museum (what they call the Hansen Museum) over the course of our current exhibit, National Geographic Photo Ark, by photographer Joel Sartore. They are particularly fascinated with Sartore’s photo of the Reimann’s Snake-Necked Turtle taken in 2009 at the Zoo Atlanta in Atlanta, GA. This particular turtle is quite eye catching because it has the biggest smile on its odd little head. So, the boys had visions of seeing the animals up close and personal at the zoo like the photos on display at the Museum.
Our first encounter was with the chimpanzees. It was cool and drizzling slightly so the chimps were inside their enclosure. Only one was close enough to get a good look at and this chimp didn’t disappoint. He stood on his head and did a somersault. The boys were thrilled. We moved on and stopped at the cheetah habitat. There were a couple of cheetahs laying out in the mud, but they were far away and therefore not very thrilling for two little guys who wanted a better look. The visit went forth in this manner until we arrived at the Red-Foot Tortoise enclosure. At first, the boys were a bit disappointed with the three tortoises as they didn’t smile like the one at Nana’s museum, but then they noticed that two of the tortoises were walking back and forth along the fence of the enclosure. Soon they realized that the tortoises were following them as they walked along the fence. If the boys would turn and walk the other way, the tortoises would also turn and follow. After figuring this out, they decided to race the tortoises. Needless to say, the boys won every race.
In the van on the way home from the zoo, my older grandson said he had fun, but asked why the animals didn’t look at them the way the animals at Nana’s Museum do. He is almost four and unbeknownst to me, he had expected all the animals at the zoo to stop and look at him like the photos on display in National Geographic Photo Ark. After trying my best to explain why and how the photos in the exhibit came to be, he said if you really want to “see” the animals you have to go to Nana’s museum. Except the turtle, because according to my little guys, racing turtles are much better than smiling ones.
Photographer Joel Sartore has the art of getting a good look at something down. On display through August 16, 2020, viewers have the opportunity to come look through his lens at some of the most fascinating species (most are endangered) on the planet in the Dane G. Hansen Museum’s gallery. There will be no racing, but plenty of smiles.